Passage: The inventor of the computer mouse

(CBS News) It happened this week: The passing of an inventor whose handiwork is in millions of homes and offices . . . maybe even yours.

Doug Engelbart died Tuesday at his California home, roughly 49 years after creating the computer accessory known as the Mouse.

In an interview many years later, Engelbart showed off his original, made in 1964 as part of an experiment -- a wood-encased mouse, or "X-Y Position Indicator For A Display System," as it was called at the time.

"It was no great shakes, the invention," Engelbart said. "It was just putting together things that were already known. So that's how we got the first mouse."

His modest assessment understated the sensation the mouse created when he showed it off for the very first time at a computer conference in 1968.

"I don't know why we call it a mouse," he said. As it moves up or down, so does the tracking spot.

During this 1968 demonstration, Douglas Engelbart explained how a cursor point would track the movements of a mouse made by the computer's operator. SRI

Engelbart won a patent for his mouse in 1970 . . . but he never made a fortune off it. By the time the mouse became commonplace in the late 1980s, his patent's 17-year-life span had expired.

At least one billion mice -- or is it "mouses"? -- have been sold worldwide to date. But with changing technology, its future is hardly guaranteed.

After all, when the Starship Enterprise crew time-traveled to the 20th century from the 23rd, in the 1986 film "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home," the mouse-equipped PC left them stumped:

Scotty (speaking into mouse) "Hello, computer!"
Tech guy: "Just use the keyboard."
Scotty: "A keyboard? How quaint."

That the mouse would eventually fade away would hardly have surprised its inventor. "It's hard to believe it won't someday be obsolete," Engelbart once said. "Everybody sort of thinks we're there, and we're just a little ways up a hill. There's *this* much to go. Let's get going!"

Douglas Engelbart was 88.

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